We are all subject to certain biases in our lives. One of the most destructive is known as the optimism bias, it won’t happen to me. This is a belief that we, as individuals, will only see positive outcomes to the things that we do to ourselves.
When we smoke, we will experience the quick high from the nicotine, and very few of the negative outcomes. Maybe we’ll get a bit of the smokers cough in the morning, but hey, we can handle that. We won’t get emphysema, CPD, or lung cancer. “It will never happen to me”.
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When we use alcohol, we’ll be able to enjoy a kick from that first drink, but we won’t ever get the negative outcomes. They are for somebody else. We may have the hangovers that seem to be getting worse, even a pain in our sides, but we’ll never get alcoholic cardiomyopathy, Korsakoff’s syndrome, or cirrhosis of the liver. “It will never happen to me”.
The negative impact of all these things will happen to other people, never to us.
There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” It’s a good way of going about your life. Positive people will experience many more positive outcomes than negative people. Positive people have positive expectations about themselves and about life, and mostly, this type of thinking can help create those positive expectations.
Advertisers for alcohol play up to this optimism bias, that we all have to a certain degree. We see the fun and laughter in the adverts. We see ourselves drinking a dry martini next to a beautiful woman or a handsome James Bond type. The more the marketers pummel us with these positive spin alcohol ads, the more deep-rooted the propaganda becomes. “It will never happen to me”.
But, there also comes a time to face up to reality. We live in a world where fakery is pushed down our throats 24/7. How many thousands of adverts are fired at you every single day? They all promise something. A road to happiness and contentment. The woman or man of your dreams. Untold riches. Health in a pill. Relaxation in a bottle.
The reality is that 3,500,000 people die every single year because of alcohol… And those are just the ones that can be proven to have died as a consequence of alcohol. Over 200 medical conditions are caused because of alcohol drinking. “It will never happen to me”.
How many people spend their hard earned money with the belief that handing over their hard earned cash in exchange for a piece of paper with some randomly chosen numbers, will give them a realistic chance of winning millions on the lottery? Yet, a huge part of the population do this. They believe in this positive outcome. In fact, your chances of winning the Powerball grand prize in the US lottery are a phenomenally low 1 in 292.2 million.
What are your chances of causing one of the 200+ medical conditions that might happen to you because you drink alcohol? What are the chances, if you heavily drink alcohol, that you will die prematurely, and that your alcohol drinking behaviour will have played a part in your premature death? “It will never happen to me”.
The fact is, it can happen to you. Drinking alcohol has an immediate effect on your body and your mind. As soon as you drink it, it increases the risk of many of these harmful health conditions. It’s unavoidable.
When I was using alcohol, I really believed that alcohol drinking would be with me for the rest of my life. I believed it was a part of me, part of my life, a core part of who I was. Imagine having that as one of your “values”! “I’m an alcohol drinker and proud of it!” I carried that around with me for many years and it cost me dearly.
Fortunately, through whatever positive thoughts happened to me at that time, my eyes began to open to the tragedy that had been unfolding in my life. I still succumb to that optimism bias. I think it’s inevitable if you are an optimistic type of person. However, I’m no longer under the delusion that I have no control over how this optimism plays out, or how much of a negative influence it can impose, even while maintaining my optimistic outlook.
An optimism bias is a good thing to have. It can drive you forward. It can set you up on a permanent road of achievement. But you also have to open your eyes to the possibility that it can happen to you. Examine what you’re doing, particularly to yourself. By all means, maintain your optimism bias, but use it like a sprinkling of salt over your main meal of “reality”.
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